Who Are We? Populism, Citizenship, Religion

 —– Public talk by Dr Amyn B. Sajoo

When: Thursday, 23 March 2017, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Where: Room 129, Education Centre South (ED), University of Alberta


Will Kymlicka remarked in 2000 that a decade of “remarkable upsurge” in claims of minority rights was coupled with a passion for “democratic citizenship.”  The contest was between the urge to belong of those who long felt excluded by the modern State, and the urge to guarantee the sense of belonging of all of society’s members. Universal rights and universal citizenship were the prize — but how you saw them depended on where you stood.

Today, the contest is very different. The “new global nationalism” is a populist war-cry to “take back” the State from Others.  It has given us Brexit, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi … Its perceived Others include: science and public policy experts, migrants, Muslims, and the “liberal establishment” (including human rights advocates). Where does this leave Citizenship, an idea at the heart of Plato’s Republic? Can we envision a pluralist, cosmopolitan future for the Citizen, who has been called the most “dynamic social figure in modern history”?


Amyn B. Sajoo lectures in history and global politics at Simon Fraser University, where his research is at the interface of law, religion and public ethics. He is an International Fellow with the University of Alberta’s Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life. Dr. Sajoo was the 2010 Canada Department of Foreign Affairs Visiting Academic in the Middle East, which took him to Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Since 2009 he has served as the editor of the Muslim Heritage Series (UK), in which the fourth volume, The Shi’i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity, was published in 2015. Dr. Sajoo was previously affiliated with Cambridge and McGill universities, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London). Educated at King’s College London and McGill University, Montreal, his early career was with the Canadian departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs. He also served as a Canada-ASEAN Fellow in Southeast Asia, culminating in his monograph, Pluralism in Old Societies and New States (1994). Subsequent works include Muslim Modernities: Expressions of the Civil Imagination (ed. 2008), Muslim Ethics (2004), and Civil Society in the Muslim World (ed. 2002). A frequent contributor to the news media, his articles have appeared in The Guardian, Open Democracy, The Globe & Mail, Asian Wall Street Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor.